Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The State of Punk in NYC Today

ethan
Camero Werewolf of Live Fast Die, Williamsburg, Brooklyn - NY - 2007

You absolutely have to click the link that is the title of this post! New York Magazine's Summer Guide 2008 - The Summer Issue... "Punk Like Them" is the name of the article.

Thirty plus years after NYC homeboys The Ramones revitalized a bloated music scene with their short, fast, furious and fun songs, kids are still seeking the Holy Grail of Punk Rock - NYC's St Marks Place.

Man oh man, do I feel old. Not aged, mind you... but old like "old fogey." After reading about the protagonist of the "Punk Like Them" piece, I just had to roll my eyes (you might too). Punk rock may be a statement or response against the mainstream... but back in the day (and here's where I sound like an old fogey)... we earned everything we achieved (and in so doing, made the world safe for future punk rockers and punk rocker wannabe's).

disconnected chaos
Dee Dee Ramone on stage with Stiv Bators & Jimmy Zero of the Dead Boys, and members of the latter day touring Dead Boys who would become the Stiv Bators Band, Los Angeles, 1980

There are so few bands and people out there today who deserve to wear the "punk rock" moniker. The above-pictured Camero Werewolf and his band Live Fast Die are among them. They have the spirit of punk rock and the full-fledged DIY ethos that, unbeknowst to the iconoclast young rockers of the 70s, completely re-imagined the music industry in the 70s in more ways than any of us imagined, and we are still feeling the ramifications of the 70s youthquake known as punk rock.

outside passout records

Back in the 70s, we didn't like, understand or accept the word "No." You wanted to tour? You got in the van... you slept on the floors of other bands in other towns and returned the favor when they passed through your town... you arranged shows for bands coming through your town, and they returned the favor... the daily paper didn't want to know about your show for their listings and wouldn't give you editorial space, so you started a zine... no label would even listen to your demo or see your band, let alone even think about releasing a record by you... so you Did It Yourself.

live fast die at passout records
Live Fast Die play in the Pass Out Record Shop, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2007

No place to play? Your fans too young to get into a club? No worry. You'd play in a record store... one that your friends opened... that stocks your self-released punk rock record.

goner store
Goner Records in Memphis - the ultimate indie record store with ultimate punk rock DIY cred

Even as late in the game as the 1990s, the heart and soul of DIY punk rock was not lost. I point out the example of the Oblivians and the birth of Goner Records, a label and record store. Eric Friedl "Oblivian" started the Goner label in order to release a cassette of the band's first recording. A cassette with another local band, Impala on the flip side. A decade later, Goner is a full-fledged indie label, releasing the best of Memphis punk rock music and then some. Jay Reatard, heir to the Memphis punk rock crown, and a real break-through success started on Goner... Harlan T Bobo, decidedly not punk rock, but rather as massively audience appealing as any major label pop artist is a Goner Records recording artist, as are Great Britain's Hip Shakes and Chicago's power pop punk Cococoma. The latest pop punk sensation on Goner is Memphis's Barbaras.

Maybe Goner was inspired by Slash - the zine and record label - or by the time Eric and the Oblivians were doing their thing... the DIY approach was so embedded in youth ethos that it was the obvious, no-brainer thing to do. Why wait? Do it NOW! on your own terms.

That ethic is what is punk rock to me.

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